In February, Neal Bennett was in his late seventies, overweight, and suffering from high blood pressure and high cholesterol. He was running out of money for cholesterol medicine, and wasn’t sure what to do, so he made an appointment at Mendocino Community Health Clinic’s (MCHC) Hillside Health Center.
When he finished his medical appointment, the provider asked him to stay in the treatment room while a nurse educator came in.
“Jessica [the nurse] brought me in a whole diet thing,” Bennett said. Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) Jessica Toste is a care manager, and she provided Bennett with a list of foods that would help him meet his health goals of losing weight, lowering his blood pressure, and lowering his cholesterol.
“I knocked off all red meat. Now I’m on fish, turkey, and beans twice a week,” Bennett said. “I lost 16 pounds the first two months, 12 pounds the second two months, and 13 pounds the last two months – that’s 41 pounds in six months! I didn’t do as well this visit, but that’s because I had family visiting,” he said of his October appointment.
MCHC shifted its practice to a more patient-centered, team-based approach this year, and the patients are reaping the rewards.
“The care wraps around the patient. If they are depressed, we bring in a behavioral health provider. If they need a pap, we schedule an appointment with Care for Her. If they need to lose weight, we provide education so they know how. We encourage patients to be more active in their own health and wellness,” Toste said.
With Toste’s guidance and encouragement, Bennett took the weight loss goal seriously. He called a family member who works at Whole Foods in Santa Rosa to obtain the foods on his list (even though they’re available at any grocery store). “I went to Whole Foods just to get started,” he said. He also increased his activity level. He’s a woodworker “on the go,” as he puts it. “I don’t sit around. I’m opening a workshop in Nice, and I’ll be having a booth at the arts and crafts fair this weekend,” he said.
Toste admitted that since MCHC began this more holistic approach to care, she and some of her nurse co-workers have also improved their own health. “We need to set a good example. We can’t be overweight and then ask our patients to lose weight,” she said. Toste and fellow LVN Sara Holmes began running to improve their health and have been entering in 5K events. “It feels great,” she said.
Toste also explained how the patient-centered, team approach has helped her work to the top of her LVN license. “We are all more involved with the patients since we started the new approach. We make decisions together with the provider, so the patients have a lot more people directly involved in their care,” she said. Bennett’s opinion of the MCHC staff is clear, “They’re fantastic. What else is there to say?”
In addition to one-on-one attention, MCHC is offering free Healthy Habits workshops to help patients manage chronic health conditions like arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and lung disease. The next series will take place beginning in late October (six classes total). For details, call Darca at 462-3547.